I stopped reading books and attending literature events because they made me feel jealous. Even though I loved them, I could not ignore the negative emotion I felt during and after. Why were they good enough to be published and I wasn’t? What made their voice more important than mine? I was no longer going just to listen, and I was no longer enjoying the events; I was seeking validation.
I kept hoping that one of the authors would see in my eyes the voice inside me and say, “Sammy, you are good enough to be published. You are [now actually] a writer.” Obviously they never did and never could. There are two main reasons for this. First, you can’t tell someone is a writer by looking at them; you have to show them what you have written. Second, the purpose of the event was to sell books, not to validate emerging writers.
Even though I know now that I am a writer, for most of my life nobody knew, not even me. I have written nearly every day in my journal since I was 13. I wrote on the toilet, I wrote on the tube, and I wrote on receipts. I wrote for student newspapers, I wrote for small literary magazines, and I wrote on my blog. Yet, because I hadn’t published a book, won an award, or written for The Guardian, I thought I wasn’t a writer.
Only recently have I started to call myself a writer; usually I call myself a blogger. No one can say I’m not a good enough writer because I’m not a writer, I’m a blogger. Even though, I’m actually a writer who writes for a blog, or if you remove the adjective clause, I’m a writer. There, I said it. I’m a writer.
When I wrote in my journal for the first time at 13, I became a writer. My thoughts were valuable and deserved to be listened to, but I didn’t think so. I had already won the Best Female Reader of the Year in my class and had finished all of the unabridged versions of Jane Austen. How could I be a writer just like Jane Austen. I was not good enough.
I decided to become good enough. I read over 300 books (thanks Goodreads!), took 9 creative writing courses, completed a degree in English Literature, worked in publishing for three years, and attended over 200 readings, but I still thought I wasn’t good enough.
And then I had a mental breakdown. My breakdown forced me to accept my thoughts. I had to believe that I was good enough in order to stop crying and make a decision. I needed to believe that my thoughts were valid in order to take action and quit my job. I was too afraid to quit in person, so I wrote a very honest email where I shared my mental status with my manager and told her I would be handing in my resignation letter on Monday.
On Monday, my manager and the company gave me permission to leave immediately with full pay if I felt that I needed to. For the first time in my life, my mental health was validated. I didn’t want to compromise my values, so I stayed long enough to train the temp. It was comforting to know that if I felt terrible again I could listen to that, and everything would be okay. If I had not been able to use words to accurately reflect my internal experience, I never would have been able to get out of that painful situation. I do not like to think about what might have happened. All I know is that writing saved my life.
Once I wrote that email, something clicked and I realized that everything was going to be okay. I was going to put my happiness first, and deal with the consequences. I was going to love myself. Anything was better than before. I started to write something else, but I didn’t know what. Turns out it was the beginning of a blovel. This blovel. This novel. This book.
Read the next post in the series “The Price of Validation”
Read the first post in the series “Hi Again”.
Check out the full list of blog posts “How to Value Your Own Thoughts”
Featured image by Peggy Su.